On September 18, 2018, Lieff Cabraser and California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones sued AbbVie, Inc. for violations of the Insurance Frauds Prevention Act (“IFPA”) by providing kickbacks to healthcare providers throughout California relating to sale of the immunosuppressive drug Humira.
After the defendants sought removal to federal court, in July 2019 Judge James Donato of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued an order remanding the case back to California Superior Court, noting that plaintiffs brought suit against AbbVie only for its conduct in California, that of pursuing its two illicit schemes to “pump up” the sales of Humira in California.
The lawsuit, filed in California Superior Court in Alameda, California, alleges that AbbVie engaged in a far-reaching scheme to maximize profits and the number of prescriptions of Humira via “classic” kickbacks—including cash, meals, drinks, gifts, trips, and patient referrals—as well as more sophisticated kickbacks, including professional services to physicians to induce and reward Humira prescriptions. These kickbacks saved time and money for doctors and their staff.
The Complaint further alleges that AbbVie deployed so-called “Ambassadors” directly into patients’ homes, ostensibly to provide a helping hand, but in fact—and cynically—to provide valuable services to benefit health care providers, ensure prescriptions were filled, and deflect patient concerns. Unfortunately, AbbVie directed its Ambassadors to avoid patient questions about risks for the dangerous drug.
In August 2020, the California Department of Insurance Fraud announced a $24 million settlement of the case that included meaningful Humira marketing reforms. “AbbVie’s prior practices in marketing HUMIRA egregiously put profits ahead of transparency in patient care and violated California law,” noted California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara. “This settlement delivers important reforms to AbbVie’s business practices and a substantial monetary recovery that will be used to continue to combat insurance fraud.”